When was the last time you pulled out those boxes of pictures?
You know those boxes I’m talking about. The ones in your attic, or in the closet, or in the armoire, or under the bed in the guest room. The ones full of faces you may only vaguely remember. The ones that are starting to fade, the colors all blending into one another or turning a distinct shade of yellow. The ones with faces that are no longer crisp and defined.
With every passing year, the memories of the events that prompted those pictures are forgotten. The people who hold the stories are leaving, either mentally or even physically. What are you going to do to preserve those memories before they disappear forever?
I dig into my boxes often, looking for picture to attach to a story I am writing, or to show my kids that, yes, I did play volleyball in 7th grade. My boxes contain pictures going back generations. There are picture that my parents took and my grandparents, too. There are picture of my Uncle Lutz returning home from WWII on crutches, and my parents holding hands and smiling on their honeymoon to Chicago in 1967.
However, I don’t have all of the pictures and memories that I want. Many pictures were lost about 25 years ago. My grandparents’ house burned down in a fire, and those pictures have been lost, and with them, most of the memories because my grandparents are both gone, too. My family has tried to obtain copies of some of those photos from other family and friends, but too many of those pictures were personal and not shared. They can never be reproduced.
So what do you do? Where do you start?
It can feel daunting looking at those pictures and knowing what stories have already been lost, but there are some things you can do now to preserve the stories that are still mostly clear. Here are a four quick steps to start. This is a process, so it doesn’t have to be done all in one sitting.
Organize. Sort your pictures. You can sort by event (vacation to Disneyland), or topic (marching band), or person (Aunt Mary). Doing this helps to remember specific things about the event, topic, or person. It starts to piece together the story.
Who and where and why. Grab a large envelope and label it (Marching Band). Now write, right on that envelope, even if it is just basic information. The purpose of this exercise is to save the memories. As time goes on, you can add to the information written on the envelope.
Marching Band. Members from 1979-1988. Marched every weekend every summer. Trips to Florida and 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, TN. Dad drove the band bus. Usually marched 4 parades on the 4th of July. Practice was every Tuesday night. Marching Practice was Thursday.
Copy it. If you have a scanner, scan the pictures. If you don’t have a scanner, take a digital picture of your physical picture. This will help preserve the picture in the form it is in now. You should plan to store the digital images in multiple places. Your hard drive on your computer is not good enough. Back up your picture on an external hard drive, the cloud, or even Facebook. I upload many of the pictures I take with my phone camera to Facebook. They are not shared with anyone. I upload them with a privacy setting of Only Me, but they are saved should something happen to my phone.
Store it. Place all of the related photos in the large envelope you wrote your details on. Doing this will allow you to easily find the photos you are looking for, and be able to share them when you are ready.